DATAPOINTS

$1.4 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

6

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

30

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#7 (tie)

APCO Worldwide
(for Bahrain Economic Development Board)

Hired: Oct. 2018
2018 fees and expenses: $22,000

NEW Supplemental
(March 1, 2019 – Aug. 31, 2019)
NEW Terminated foreign agent
Gabriela Zen

Bahrain’s Economic Development Board paid APCO Worldwide $77,000 in the six-month period ending Aug. 31. The firm arranged interviews to promote Bahrain “as an attractive location for business investment and expansion,” and arranged meetings in San Francisco with representatives from VMWare, Postmates, Zoox, and X (Google’s secret research lab) to promote the country.

Gabriela Zen stopped working for APCO Worldwide June 25. She was a registered foreign agent for Bahrain’s Economic Development Board.

BGR Government Affairs
(for Bahrain)

Hired: Feb. 2018
Contract: $500,000/year

NEW Informational materials

BGR Government Affairs Senior Vice President Mark Tavlarides wrote to undisclosed Senate staffers in July, flagging an email “asking your boss to vote no or vote to table” legislation introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., seeking to block arms sales to Bahrain. The effort failed by a vote of 43-56.

Sonoran Policy Group
(for Bahrain)

Hired: Feb. 2018
Contract: $500,000/year

NEW Supplemental
(Jan. 1, 2019 – June 30, 2019)
Fees: $250,000
Meetings: Rep. Bill Keating, D-Mass., Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I, and Tim Lenderking, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Peninsula Affairs

Sonoran Policy Group was paid $250,000 by Bahrain in the first six months of 2019. Christian Bourge met with Reps. Bill Keating, D-Mass., and Jim Langevin, D-R.I, as well as Tim Lenderking, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Peninsula Affairs. 

Bahrain banks on Trump with Israeli-Palestinian gambit

Editor

Julian Pecquet

@JPecquet_ALM

jpecquet@al-monitor.com
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Julian Pecquet is the Washington Editor for Al-Monitor.

Posted: September 11, 2019

The tiny kingdom of Bahrain is deepening its ties to the United States and Israel in a bid for more influence amid increasing regional tensions with Iran.

After playing a lead role in the fruitless Gulf public relations campaign against Qatar in 2017 and unsuccessfully battling President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs last year, Manama has once again changed up its lobbying focus. Undeterred by regional criticism that the Trump administration greatly favors Israel over the Palestinians, Bahrain agreed to host the roll-out of the US peace plan’s economic component in May despite widespread skepticism that it would amount to anything.

“The ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop underscores the close strategic partnership between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United States as well as the strong and shared interest in creating thriving economic opportunities that benefit the region,” Bahrain Minister of Finance and National Economy Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa declared in a joint statement with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the time. A month later, Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner told the Bahrainis he was “overwhelmed” by their assistance on the peace push.

In order to promote the conference, Bahrain hired Washington communications firm ROKK Solutions — via Dubai-based Richard Attias and Associates — for $110,000 to help with message development; media opportunities; engaging with TV reporters, producers and anchors; running the on-site media center; content development; and media monitoring.

Separately, the kingdom continues to retain the services of four other firms — DLA Piper, BGR Government Affairs, Sonoran Policy Group and Miller & Chevalier — the last three of which were hired last year. All told the Bahraini government paid out almost $1.4 million for lobbying in 2018, notably to defeat a resolution from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to restrict arms sales to Manama (the resolution failed 77-21).

In addition, the Bahrain Economic Development Board paid APCO Worldwide $22,000 last year to “promote the country as an attractive location for business investment and expansion.” The Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority country has begun to see a rebound in pledged foreign investment following the political unrest of the 2011 Arab Spring protests and the subsequent crackdown, but faces new challenges to its role as a gateway to the Saudi market as Riyadh pursues its own economic modernization.

Despite backlash in parts of the Arab world, Bahrain’s US gambit appears to have earned some early returns. The same month that Manama announced it would be hosting the Palestinian investment summit, the Pentagon notified Congress of plans to sell the country $2.5 billion in Patriot missile batteries and $750 million in missiles for its F-16 fleet.

The kingdom has failed to make headway on the issue of tariffs, however, which threaten the country’s effort to diversify its economy and attract manufacturing jobs. Bahrain was the fourth-largest exporter of aluminum to the United States in 2017, according to the Congressional Research Service, with $585 million worth of exports. Moody's credit rating agency predicts the kingdom, which ranked as the world’s eighth-largest aluminum producer in 2016, is among the countries with the most to lose.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobby firm:
Sonoran Policy Group

 

 

$1.4 million

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Kushner lauds Bahrain role in peace summit
  • Bahrain scores $3 billion weapons sale
  • Congress defeats resolution to restrict arms sales
LOSSES
  • Bahrain faces regional backlash from Palestinian advocates
  • US steel and aluminum tariffs remain in place
  • Saudi reforms threaten foreign investment push

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